Applicants for U.S. Visas and Green Cards Must Now Disclose Social Media Profile Information

In response to the Trump Administration’s “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals entering the United States, the U.S. Department of State has increased the amount of personal data foreign nationals must provide when applying for a U.S. visa abroad. Federal government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have dramatically expanded their social media monitoring programs in recent years by collecting a vast amount of user information in the process, such as political and religious views, data about physical and mental health, and the identity of family and friends. DHS increasingly uses this information for vetting and analysis, including for individuals seeking to enter the United States and for both U.S. and international travelers.

As of May 30, 2019, applicants completing the Form DS-160 (the standard online platform for all non-immigrant visa applications) and the Form DS-260 (the standard online platform for immigrant (“Green Card”) applications), must now provide information on all social media accounts used in the past five years. This information will be used to prevent visa and Green Card fraud.

Using dropdown menus, the Form DS-160 and DS-260 requires applicants to provide the names of all social media accounts used (lists 20 of the most popular social medial platforms), and the applicant’s username or “handle” for each account. The form also provides a text box to provide social media information not listed in the drop-down menu.

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U.S. House Passes Significant ‘Dreamer’ Immigration Bill with Potential to Grant Permanent Residency to 2 Million Undocumented Youth

On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an ambitious immigration bill aimed at providing a path to citizenship to almost 2 million undocumented immigrants, including “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children.  This bill cancels and prohibits removal proceedings against certain aliens, and provides such aliens with a path toward Legal Permanent Resident status.

The bill, titled American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would provide a 10-year conditional permanent residency to recipients of the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and for other qualified young, undocumented, immigrants. To be eligible, immigrants must have been younger than 18 when they came to the U.S., and must have lived in the U.S. continuously over the previous four years.  Applicants will also need to possess an American high school diploma or GED, and pass a background check. Applicants who have committed certain crimes would be ineligible under the bill.

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Is Your Company Prepared for an I-9 Audit? What to Expect During and After a Visit from ICE or DHS

ICE auditWhile immigration enforcement and oversight have occurred under the purview of all past presidents, the Trump Administration has publicly made them a leading policy priority.  Immigration raids and detentions at the border are the most visible aspects of this policy, but administrative oversight of employment documentation has also increased and will likely have the greatest impact on the majority of employers. One area where this is especially true is with Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s oversight of employer’s I-9 forms.

Worksite immigration enforcement rose drastically in the fiscal year 2018 compared to the previous year, following a commitment made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in late 2017 to step up its worksite enforcement efforts across the country.

All worksite enforcement categories surged by 300 to 750% over the previous fiscal year. Here are some surprising numbers:

• 6,848 worksite investigations in 2018 compared to 1,691 in 2017;
• 5,981 I-9 audits in 2018 compared to 1,360 in 2017;
• 779 criminal arrests compared to 139 in 2017 (including arrests and indictments of managers); and
• 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 172 in 2017.

What is an I-9 Form?

i-9The I-9 Form is an instrumental part of the new employee on-boarding process, and should be completed within the first 3 days of hire.  This form is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States, including both citizens and non-citizens. Failure to maintain proper I-9s can lead to a variety of monetary fines or even criminal penalties if an employer intentionally misrepresents I-9 information.

What Can Go Wrong? During an Audit

On its face, the I-9 form appears to be a fairly simple and straightforward document. However, many employers fail to accurately input all required documentation, fail to obtain proper employee documentation, or fail to properly store and maintain I-9 records. Any of these oversights can lead to potentially costly fines in the event of an audit. Our clients who have been officially audited told us that ICE reviewed every line of an I-9 form for accuracy and will issue fines for every entry that is inaccurate. Therefore, it is vital that employees responsible for handling I-9 documentation be fully trained with respect to I-9 procedures. For a detailed overview of the I-9 process, see our previous article, 6 Tips for Avoiding Costly I-9 Mistakes. Continue reading

DHS Proposes Removal of the Entrepreneur Parole Rule- Comment period ends June 28

international-movers-and-packersAccording to a post on the uscis.gov website dated May 25, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes an end the International Entrepreneur Rule (IE Final Rule), a program that allows certain foreign entrepreneurs to be considered for parole to temporarily come to the United States to develop and build start-up businesses here.  After review of all DHS parole programs in accordance with an Executive Order (E.O.) titled, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” issued on January 25, 2017, the DHS is proposing to end the IE parole program, and remove or revise the related regulations, because it alleges that this program is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs, and does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers employed by or seeking employment with the start-up.  Interested parties will have until June 28 to make their opinions heard by DHS.

Backstory

In July 2017, DHS published a final rule to delay the implementation date of the IE Final Rule to March 14, 2018, to give the Department time to draft a rescission of the IE Final Rule. However, in December 2017, a federal court vacated the delay rule, requiring USCIS to begin accepting international entrepreneur parole applications consistent with the IE Final Rule.
However, DHS is now proposing to eliminate the IE Final Rule because the department believes that it represents an overly broad interpretation of parole authority, lacks sufficient protections for U.S. workers and investors, and is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs.

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Update on the Travel Ban and DACA

Travel Ban

travel-ban May 2018On April 25th, 2018 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides on President Trump’s highly scrutinized “travel ban”. The travel ban, now in its third iteration, prohibits entry of travelers from five Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya), as well as North Korea and government officials from Venezuela. Although previous versions of the travel ban were initially partially blocked by U.S. District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland, the Supreme Court lifted such injunctions in December 2017.

Since Trump first issued his travel order, setting off widespread chaos at airports just a few days after his inauguration, the issue has strongly shaped public perceptions of the new administration. It has also led to a string of defeats in lower courts, where judges ruled that the measure exceeded Trump’s authority and, in some cases, said it reflected bias against Muslims.

 

However, the Supreme Court of the United States has provided a friendlier forum, on this topic. The justices issued a ruling in June 2017 that allowed the second version of the travel ban to take partial effect. Then, in December 2017, with only two dissenting votes, they set aside lower-court rulings to allow the administration to put the third version into practice, a strong indicator of where the majority was headed.

Justice Samuel A. Alito rejected the notion Trump’s order could be considered a “Muslim ban,” noting it does not apply to most of the largest Muslim nations.

“If you look at what was done, it does not look like a Muslim ban,” he said.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s appointee, questioned whether the challengers had standing to sue in the first place. Foreigners overseas do not have rights in U.S. courts, he said. Plaintiffs who live in Hawaii sued, contending the travel ban was illegal, but “third parties can’t vindicate the rights of aliens,” Gorsuch said.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy portrayed the issue before the court as one of national security in which the chief executive, not the judicial branch, should be entrusted to weigh possible threats from foreign visitors.

 

A final decision by the Court is expected at the end of June. Meanwhile, the current version of the travel ban remains in effect during deliberation. Continue reading

Exciting News for Foreign Entrepreneurs: The International Entrepreneur Rule Is Back!

international-movers-and-packersGreat news for foreign  entrepreneurs looking for a way to pursue startup opportunities in the United States! A Federal Judge has blocked an effort by the Trump Administration to delay implementation of the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), also known as the Entrepreneur Parole Rule, an Obama-era program that would give international entrepreneurs the opportunity to come to the United States to develop and operate start-up businesses.  Although the IER was published during the previous administration with an effective date of July 17, 2017, it did not take effect because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule on July 11, 2017, delaying the IER’s effective date until March 14, 2018.  This delay rule was meant to give USCIS time to review the IER and, if necessary, to issue a rule proposing to remove the IER program regulations.

However, on December 1, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to begin accepting applications for the program in his decision in National Venture Capital Association v. Duke. Prior to Judge Boasberg’s decision, DHS attempted to delay implementation of the rule by postponing its implementation until March of 2018 so it could gather public comments on a proposal to rescind the rule altogether.

The main issue that led to Judge Boasberg’s decision arose when DHS delayed implementation of the rule without first holding a public notice and comment period on whether to institute the delay. According to the plaintiffs who filed the suit, including the National Venture Capital Association and other plaintiffs representing foreign entrepreneurs, DHS violated administrative procedures by delaying implementation of the rule, six days before it was to go into effect, without first soliciting public comment on whether to implement the delay. Continue reading

What You Really Need to Know About the Rescission of DACA

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On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is being rescinded.  The Department of Homeland Security personnel will take all appropriate actions to execute a wind-down of the program, consistent with the parameters established in Tuesday’s Memorandum on Rescission Of Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) (hereinafter, “Memo”).

On September 6, 2017, fifteen states and the District of Columbia filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking to stop the rescission.  During his candidacy for president, Donald Trump said that he intended to end DACA on “day one” of his presidency.

What Is DACA?

On June 15, 2012, under the Obama Administration, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. Continue reading

What to Do When DHS or ICE Comes Knocking at Your Door

By Anthony Mance, Esq. and Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

ICE 2The Trump Administration has repeatedly indicated that it will take an aggressive and proactive approach to enforcing immigration laws. While it is not yet clear how and when this will translate into developed policy, it is prudent for employers to be prepared for increased oversight and enforcement. One issue that demands particular attention is how employers should handle on-site visits by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. These visits can range from basic inspections and audits to large-scale immigration raids and arrests. Any employer is subject to these visits, but keep in mind that employers sponsoring employees on employment visas such as H-1B, H-2B, OPT, L-1, TN, E-3, O-1 are also subject to visits by the Department of Labor and USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.

While such visits can be confusing and intimidating, developing a coherent plan for dealing with immigration visits and effectively communicating that plan to relevant employees will reduce the risk of making costly mistakes. Do your receptionist, front-line person, and field employees know how to respond when an officer comes in with a badge and a warrant? If not, it’s time to create a plan.

The following is a brief overview of immigration-related site visits, and what employers can do to properly prepare for, and react to, such visits. Continue reading

Immigrant Entrepreneurs May Be Able to Remain in the U.S. on Parole Under New Rule Proposed by DHS

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On August 31, 2016 , the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed an amendment to its regulations in an effort to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States. The proposed rule would allow for the use of “parole” on a case-by-case basis for certain Startup entrepreneurs whose entry into the United States would provide a significant public benefit through “the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation.”  Once the notice of proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 45 days from the date of publication to comment. To submit comments in support of this rule, follow the instructions in the notice.

The new “International Entrepreneur Rule” would expand the opportunity for international entrepreneurs, inventors, and startup founders to receive “parole”, which is temporary permission to be present in the United States.  “Parole” is not considered an admission to the United States, and does not confer any immigration status.  In addition, once a person is granted parole, the parolee’s stay in the U.S. is at DHS’s discretion and may be terminated at any time consistent with existing regulations.  DHS has broad discretion to grant parole and may do so on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading